Are the Democrats running against Mitch McConnell rather than Donald Trump? McConnell’s name was invoked several times last night as a synonym with malice and treachery. And Trump? Not so much.
The candidates seemed to want to deal with Trump by elision rather than confronting him directly. But Trump himself weighed in on the proceedings from Air Force One to blow a loud raspberry: ‘BORING!’ This wasn’t quite fair.
The differences between the candidates, who amounted to a warm-up band for tonight’s main performance, was a study in the contrasts that mark the Democratic party. Tim Ryan and John Delaney sought offer up the unadulterated old time gospel of the Democrat of yore. Julián Castro looked on in disbelief as Ryan waxed wroth about the failure of the party to appeal to the forgotten man in the Midwest. Delaney, a former healthcare executive, rightly pointed out that not many blue-collar workers will be eager to have their health plans stripped from them by Elizabeth Warren’s social engineering myrmidons. Caution, he suggested, is warranted.
No one, as near as I could tell, bothered to mention the soaring national debt. Yet that very morning the Washington Post reported that the Congressional Budget Office says the debt is reaching levels not seen since World War Two. America is in hock. How does it dig out from a mountain of debt? No one said.
What the debate offered was a sneak peek into the next Democratic president’s cabinet should Trump be evicted from the Oval Office in November. The heavyweights will appear tonight — Bernie, Biden, Harris — and so the true fireworks should begin. Biden has centered his campaign around repudiating Trump, less on his own plans for moving the country, which, as far as he disclosed them, appear to revolve around a return to the halcyon days of the Obama era, when all was right with Washington before the interloper from Queens disrupted this American idyll.
Having Sanders on stage should prove a godsend for Biden. He will likely gobble up time from the other candidates with his histrionics and permit Biden further to depict himself as the sage elder. Progressives may want heartier political fare, but Biden’s mission will be to demonstrate that he is the only candidate who can make real progress in defeating Trump.